Gift from Gary and Mary Buntmann Establishes Ershaghi Center for Energy Transition at USC Viterbi

Viterbi Staff | March 4, 2022

Center to develop innovations for renewable energy tech and low-carbon future


According to Donald Paul, Executive Director of the USC Energy Institute, fossil fuels currently supply more than 80 percent of the world’s total energy demand.

“To create a lower-carbon, more sustainable future energy system, says Paul, “it will be essential to enable the transition of the fossil energy industry itself through investment in new technologies and operational systems that enable such transitions.”

Now, a new center at USC Viterbi School of Engineering, the Ershaghi Center for Energy Transition (E-CET) will bring together thought leaders from academia and industry to collaborate on research and educational programs that will foster such an energy transition towards a low-carbon future. The interdisciplinary center, supported by a gift from USC Viterbi and Marshall alumnus Gary Buntmann and his wife, Mary Buntmann, will focus on cultivating effective technologies and methods in a number of processes, including: re-engineering oil and gas development processes and operations to reduce carbon intensity and carbon footprint; repurposing idle oil and gas wells to help the storage of renewable energy in subsurface geological structure and substantially help in the recovery of geothermal heat.

The center is named to honor engineering Professor Iraj Ershaghi, who this year completes 50 years as a faculty member at USC. Throughout his distinguished career, Professor Ershaghi taught and mentored thousands of USC engineering students and contributed to outstanding research that led to his induction in 2014 into the National Academy of Engineering.

“The transition to a future powered by renewable energy technologies is an urgent necessity, to help maintain a planet which is sustainable, healthy and secure for all humanity,” said USC Viterbi School of Engineering Dean Yannis C. Yortsos.

Gary and Mary Buntmann

Gary and Mary Buntmann

“Developing the means for such a transition requires a focused effort in education and research, which the new center will endeavor to provide. It is entirely fitting that the new center, funded by the generosity of Gary and Mary Buntmann, honors an exceptional, dedicated USC colleague, Professor Iraj Ershaghi, who has distinguished himself in hydrocarbon energy field for many decades, and now will focus his energy and talent in accelerating the energy transition towards a sustainable future.”

Buntmann, the founder of Crimson Resource Management, said, “The viability of the future in global transitional energy begins with breakthrough science and cutting-edge education of those entrusted to implement.  USC Viterbi is an extremely capable leader in the area of engineering innovation and is well-suited to embark on this extremely important initiative.  I am proud and humbled to have Dr. Ershaghi as the namesake for the USC-ECET to cultivate the next generation of transitional energy engineering professionals.”

Iraj Ershaghi

Professor Iraj Ershaghi for whom the Center for Energy Transition (E-CET) will be named.

Ershaghi added, “Through this initiative, USC Viterbi will be at the forefront of institutions that educate engineering students who develop impactful solutions to the major challenge of energy transition for the current and future generations.”

 In addition to supporting such energy-focused engineers with fellowships and research opportunities, E-CET will bring together and support research of faculty in the energy, materials science, data science and AI fields. In addition, the center will seek industry collaboration to advance pressing issues related to renewable energy storage.

Published on March 4th, 2022

Last updated on May 17th, 2022

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